The centerpiece of our services is Safe Harbor Children’s Center, a shelter for 24 children who have nowhere else to turn. These children, ages birth to 17, have been removed from their homes due to abuse and neglect. In addition to providing a nurturing home, our children receive counseling, medical/dental services, and assistance with all aspects of their education, including transportation, tutoring, and supplies. In 2016, we provided shelter and comprehensive services to 66 vulnerable children. During the summer of 2017, we moved into our new space, a welcoming 22,000 square foot campus which features separate, two-story wings for 12 boys and 12 girls, with a dedicated living room for each wing. Each child shares a room with their own closet connected by a shared bathroom. The boys and girls share dining room, kitchen, tutoring area and a computer room, located on the first floor. A playground, picnic area and community garden provide outdoor attraction for our children. Our administrative building houses an art studio for the children as well as offices for the staff.
Please read this incredibly moving and inspirational story from one of our former residents, Christina, who now attends College of Coastal Georgia and is part of our aftercare program.
Two very different lives: Only one person
When being taken out of a situation known for so long, it gets difficult to adjust. Sleeping in a seemingly cold bed, sharing a room with three other girls with no quiet dinner table awkwardness… Life is different now; better than I ever dreamed it would be. There are very few things that I know about; however, I know that my life has not only significantly changed, but it has improved since I entered the world of the foster care system.
Rewinding back to the days when I was in a normal home, I found myself counting down the days until I was 18. Countless hours were spent isolated away from society, not knowing the songs everyone knew on the radio. I found myself bored to death, reading (and finishing) 500 page books daily, and sleeping more than anything else as life was much more interesting in my dreams. I did not seek out dreams for my future. I was just there. I saw myself as just another human being with no purpose. After all, that is what my so-called “parents” told me I was — I had no other choice but to believe it.
When I looked at myself in the mirror I saw what everyone else did not see, a sad heart, and someone who was looking for love. I always presented myself as a happy person and, to this day, I will never let anyone see what I saw in the mirror. In my “family,” I was not considered a family member. I was not allowed to talk to my siblings or to come out of my room. The things that my parents told me, and the things they never let me do, tore me apart day-by-day. Only God knew that those things would one day make me the person I am today.
Needless to say, everything my parents said about me was wrong, but I didn’t find that out until May 20th, 2015, the day I entered Safe Harbor Children’s Center. Safe Harbor shined a whole new light for me. It was my light at the end of a seemingly never-ending dark tunnel, it was the hammer to my glass walls, and the chocolate in the middle of a big tootsie-pop. Although it was everything I needed, the transition was the hardest and scariest part, but the aftermath was phenomenal.
In just one year of foster care, I found out more about myself than I ever knew in the 17 years I was at home. I found out how social I was; I was like a butterfly with new wings! I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives, to talk to people just like me and encourage them to do great things and make the best out of every situation. My story could have easily taken a wrong turn, but I did not want to end up like my parents. I wanted so badly to look back on my life one day and have no regrets.
Somehow, that very first night, that seemingly cold bed I slept on, was where I knew my heart and soul belonged. It was my destiny, as cliché as that sounds, to be a part of such a change so I can help others to go through it as well. The consistent chattering and not-so-awkward dinner table talk and the rush of each morning was the change I needed — that is what changed ME. My not-so-typical family at Safe Harbor was the best thing I could have asked for. I could not be more thankful that God gave me them to have and cherish for the rest of my life.